No. 188 NAI DFA 11/3B

Letter from Seán Lester to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(S. 9/4/84)

Geneva, 1 May 1933


I acknowledge receipt of your letter (Ref. 11/3.B) dated 21st April,1 referring to certain views and plans of the Department of Defence. Although the question has been before the Department concerned for some years and the Disarmament Conference has been sitting for sixteen months this is, as you are aware, the first intimation I have received of the views of the Department of Defence. While on the Preparatory Commission and during the Disarmament Conference itself, the Irish Representative has been pressing for the greatest possible amount of disarmament. I do not know if the situation is that the Department of Defence consider that the likelihood of world agreement on terms which would, in any way, affect their plans is remote; it would seem so. In order to safeguard my own position I need hardly recall that I have pressed again and again (1) for the views of the Department of Defence; (2) to be recalled home for consultation on the matter, and (3) to have some experts and assistants sent to me at the Disarmament Conference itself. The suggested consultation was declined and I have had no more success with the other proposals. I doubt if any other State Member of the League has paid less attention to the Conference in spite of the fact that I have conscientiously attended as many meetings as I could. As you are aware the Conference has had to take second place sometimes for a month at a stretch when I was required to fulfil other duties. I have, from time to time, spoken and in every way possible endeavoured to disguise this position. I have sent home all documents and I can only assume that the progress of the discussions has been followed by our technicians. The time will very quickly arrive when we shall have to put in the figures of our requirements, and I would urge that you press upon the Department of Defence the necessity for having them prepared in detail for immediate presentation. I am sure it is unnecessary to say that decisions of the kind will have important political aspects other than those relating to the technical side of our national defence.

Do you not think it would be well, even at this stage, that the Minister for Defence and the experts who will be compelled to deal with this question sooner or later should come to the Conference to get familiar with the technique, with the military delegates from other countries and with the general situation?

[signed] Seán Lester


The final figures for the suggested Five Year Plan would, of course, have to be the figure which would appear in the Convention as our air force strength if the Convention is limited to 5 years. There is a greater possibility at the moment that as a result of efforts to find a basis for agreement between the French and Germans as to the type of army on the one hand and the reduction of material on the other that a Ten Years' Convention can be made. In that event, if the present plan is followed, the figure to be given as our actual air strength would be the ultimate figure aimed at at the end of the ten years.

I cannot help feeling a little bit anxious as to the effect of a proposal for an increase of 300 per cent in 5 years and 500 per cent in 10 years, made almost at the last moment when negotiations have been proceeding for many months with the object of securing delicate adjustments and balances. I believe a good deal of latitude will be allowed to the small armed powers, but only if the Conference is convinced of the reasonable nature of the demands and that they will not seriously affect any possible combinations. I heard a remark, a few days ago, for example, which suggested that the United States, accorded parity with the British in the present draft, was likely to demand parity with the total air strength of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

New Zealand will also ask for a very heavy increase in her air force. If anything, this will make our position slightly more difficult. You will see from the notes of the British Commonwealth meeting, held on 29th April, that I took occasion to forecast action on behalf of the Government.

[initialled] S.L.

1 Not printed.

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